What may go down in the record books as the richest single-person estate vehicle sale ever held was conducted on Oct. 21, 2006, when the Otis Chandler Collection went under the auctioneer’s gavel in Oxnard, Calif. Chandler, who had been the owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, passed away in February 2006. The collection was a cross between sports cars and Classics, as well as a significant display of some of the finest vintage motorcycles.
Over the years, Chandler’s collection had undergone a number of changes, switching from big Classics and brass-era cars to muscle cars in the late 1980s, and then coming back to the cars he really loved. Offered to the crowd was one of the largest selections of Dietrich-bodied Packard Twelves in a variety of body styles, as well as some early motoring examples.
Nearly every car in the collection was in pristine condition, either having been treated to a full professional restoration or being a well-preserved original car.
The audience was filled with many notable collectors from around the world, and a total of 47 cars and 42 motorcycles were offered at no reserve. In just more than 5 hours, the final hammer fell and the total was a staggering $36 million, besting the previous record by nearly 55 percent.
Taking the high bid was a Duesenberg Model J LeBaron dual-cowl phaeton hammered sold at $2.4 million. Prior to the sale, auction officials had predicted at least four cars in the collection would break the $1 million mark. This estimate was upped to a total of six just prior to the start of the auction. When the bidding ended, both marks were surpassed with a total of nine cars having reached the seven-figure region (based on the bids alone). On top of all sale prices was an added 10-percent buyer’s premium.
In addition to the cars, a number of rare and historically significant motorcycles were also placed on the block. Taking the highest bid in this category was a restored 1907 Harley-Davidson “strap-tank,” one of the first bikes produced in mass quantity, selling for $320,000, among the strongest prices ever for a Harley-Davidson. Also of importance was a 1901 Indian 1.75-hp camelback single, believed to be one of the first three Indians produced (and quite possibly the first running prototype). It sold for $150,000. Several unusual motorcycles were seen on the block, including an unrestored German-built Monotrace, fitted with an enclosed body able to seat two and equipped with retractable outriggers.